By Paula Ganzi Licata
In my second year of widowhood in 2011, I was ready for romance.
I joined two online dating sites, one that cast a very wide net and a second that might yield a leaner but finer crop.
The profile of “Bill6986” caught my attention with his perfect date comment: “a bicycle ride during the day, dinner out and a Jones Beach concert.” He lived in Massapequa, just 10 minutes away.
After some back-and-forth emails, Billy asked me out to dinner. The night was magic. We talked into the evening, not realizing that the staff was trying to close down the restaurant.
When I got home, Billy emailed me: “This was a WOW night!!!” I fell asleep smiling.
Dates led to a relationship. Eventually we moved in together, and before we knew it, we were planning the rest of our lives.
Billy is handsome, strong, sensitive and smart. He loves being outdoors, enjoys a project and is the only man I know who likes a to-do list. “Just don’t give me next week’s list today,” he says.
Having found love, I terminated my memberships with the websites. I completed the exit survey of the one that connected us with a thank-you note, ending with exclamation points and a smiley face emoticon.
That was almost five years ago, but the two companies continued to stalk me.
The day after my termination, my inbox was filled with alerts and matches. The very service that helped me find love seemed intent on sabotaging my relationship.
I was bombarded with specifics: “Someone in Merrick chose you!” or “He emailed you at 7:06 a.m. today!!”
What response from me were they anticipating? “Wow, he’s an early bird. He MUST be a catch!”
The invitations were coupled with deals: “Come back for $9.95 a month.”
Who says you can’t put a price on love?
I tried to log in to the second website to remove my profile, but was allowed access only to a renewal page populated with dozens of ghost matches — squares with male silhouettes. When I clicked on a square, it spun around to reveal a man’s first name, age and hometown. Various ads invited me to rejoin so I could see photos and profiles.
My calls and emails to both companies were met with apologies and promises, but my profiles remained online. Plus, they stepped up their games. One company sent an email with the subject line: “Are you sure he’s ‘the one’?” The other sent a newsletter with articles questioning my status: “6 Signs You Might Be Sabotaging Your Love Life.”
How dare they doubt my happiness! Not only were they trying to interfere in my relationship, they were pimping my profile in cyberspace!
I kept deleting their messages, but I wanted them out of my inbox entirely. My communications this time not only demanded that my profiles be removed, but highlighted how unfair it was to their customers. Finally in 2014, my profiles disappeared.
Now when I see the websites’ commercials, I think back to their email blitzes before the holidays and Valentine’s Day, invoking any connection to trigger one’s desire for romance or fear of loneliness. I wouldn’t be surprised to see ads tapping into world disasters: “When the next tsunami hits, wouldn’t you rather be in a relationship?”
But the truth is, if a tsunami hits, I’ll be with Billy, because they helped me find Mr. Right right in my own backyard.